That. Just. Happened.
For the first time in school history, the St. Michael-Albertville Knights boys’ hockey team is going to The Tourney – the State AA Boys’ Hockey Tournament – one of the most storied high school sporting events in the nation.
STMA, ranked No. 18 in the state, withstood a ferocious Moorhead Spuds attack – two goals in the early going, and two goals late – and hung on for a 6-5 victory over a traditional powerhouse from the western part of the State of Hockey.
It’s the culmination of years of work – first finding a way to success in Class A, though never making it to the “tourney” at the Xcel Energy Center; and then a transition to Class AA, first having to battle for respect in Section 7AA with traditional powers like Elk River, Duluth East and Cloquet. Now, in Class AA, with the likes of Roseau, Moorhead and Bemidji, STMA finds itself suddenly skating to its first shot at a State AA championship. It may seem like a long shot, but so was the thought of skating around the Sanford Center in Bemidji on Wednesday night with the 8AA title, the squad’s ticket to state squarely punched.
“I think the program, itself, has changed a lot in the last couple of years thanks to the efforts of our families and our youth program,” Jerr Johnson, the Knights head coach, told North Wright County Today last season after the team won its third of what is now four consecutive Mississippi 8 Conference titles. “The community support we’ve seen, the participation and the dedication of the guys – STMA is more than a wrestling community. We have good athletes in all of our seasonal sports.”
The night didn’t open well for Johnson and the Knights. Moorhead, ranked No. 9, was motivated, and with a 5-0 win over STMA (22-5) back on Jan. 5 in its back pocket, the Spuds (19-8) wanted to crush the Knights’ spirit early. Two goals in the first two minutes had the section’s No. 1 seed up 2-0, and it was looking good for last year’s state runner up.
However, STMA goalie Justin Damon, a senior, would settle in. Damon, who did give up five goals on the night, had a stretch where he was wall-like from the 2 minute mark of the first period through the end of the second period.
During that stretch, the Knights offense would come alive, scoring four straight goals and staking STMA, the No. 2 seed, to a 4-2 lead after two full periods of play. Adam Flammang would tie the game at two at the 11:20 mark of the first period, and the Knights would take their first lead of the night at 6:27 of the second period, when Cody Kelly found the net. They would never relinquish that advantage.
It wasn’t easy. Moorhead scored just 38 seconds into the final period to cut the lead to 4-3. And when Flammang’s linemates Luc Laylin and Brady Berning each scored (both on assists from the sophomore) to make it a seemingly insurmountable 6-3 lead, the Spuds stormed back with two quick goals and narrowed it down again to a one goal game.
That’s when Damon would come up big. Moorhead would get a powerplay, the second of the game for the Spuds, with under a minute left. With a 6-4 advantage, the Spuds played keep away in the Knights’ end. They couldn’t, however, ever find the equalizer. And after some tense moments, the gloves went up the air, and STMA was celebrating.
- The game featured 11 goals, but none on special teams. Both squads went “O-for” on the powerplay. None was bigger than Moorhead’s failure to capitalize on Caden Sigerud’s penalty with just 55 seconds left.
- STMA’s winning streak is at a cool dozen. They haven’t lost since Jan. 26 – against Roseau.
- The Knights will, most likely, not be seeded in next weekend’s tournament. STMA does, however, have a conference championship and section championship under its belt heading into the AA Tournament. It also has wins over Moorhead, Maple Grove, Hermantown (Class A) and schedule that also featured Holy Family, Edina and Eden Prairie this year.
- The stat sheet won’t look “flawless” for Damon, but stopping 16 of 18 shots in the final period, when the Spuds were frantically trying to scratch out that equalizer, was huge. He did have a clean sheet in the second, as the Knights built a 4-2 lead, stopping all six shots he faced.
- Other stars – Adam Flammang (goal, two assists), Sigerud (two assists), Jordan Dobrinski (goal, assist).
- Check out the celebration:
0:55 Moorhead #22 Parker Larson (even strength)01
1:41 Moorhead #23 Karson Kvalevog (even strength) (#2 Tommy Horan, #18 Carter Johnson)02
9:38 St. Michael-Albertville#4 Cole Lehmann (even strength) (#16 Jordan Drobinski)12
11:20 St. Michael-Albertville#11 Adam Flammang (even strength)22
6:27 St. Michael-Albertville#14 Cody Kelly (even strength) (#3 Zach Sjelin, #7 Caden Sigerud)32
14:00 St. Michael-Albertville#16 Jordan Drobinski (even strength) (#7 Caden Sigerud)42
0:38 Moorhead#6 Carter Randklev (even strength) (#21 Jack Stetz, #5 Ethan Frisch)43
11:08 St. Michael-Albertville#9 Luc Laylin (even strength) (#11 Adam Flammang)53
13:5 8St. Michael-Albertville#5 Brady Berning (even strength) (#11 Adam Flammang)63
14:42 Moorhead#4 Isaac Henkemeyer-Howe (even strength) (#6 Carter Randklev, #11 Cole O’Connell)64
15:33 Moorhead#11 Cole O’Connell (even strength) (#5 Ethan Frisch)65
14:46 Moorhead #11 Cole O’Connell Tripping – Minor (2:00)
11:31 St. Michael-Albertville #4 Cole Lehmann Tripping – Minor (2:00)
16:06St. Michael-Albertville #7 Caden Sigerud Minor (2:00)